(Bloomberg) -- Last year was the third-worst this century for tropical tree-loss according to new data released Tuesday by Global Forest Watch, an online platform that provides data and tools for monitoring forests. There is, however, a sliver of good news: The world’s most important cocoa-producing countries, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, showed signs of progress, halving the damage of the prior year.
Cocoa-growing is a major cause of deforestation in West Africa. Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s biggest producer, lost 80% of its forests in a half-century. Globally, deforestation is responsible for as much as 15% of global carbon-dioxide emissions. Recently, however, there have been a series of efforts to slow the environmental damage.
Ghana in July joined a World Bank initiative that promises nations up to $50 million over 5 years for reductions in the carbon-dioxide emissions caused by deforestation. The nation, along with Côte d’Ivoire and Colombia, also belongs to the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, a partnership with at least 35 companies that together use 85% of the world’s cocoa. The program, founded in 2017, created a forum and guidelines for countries, companies and farmers to retool supply chains so that development and conservation aren’t at odds.
As part of the pact, each nation has signed off on plans to bring both jobs and sustainable agriculture practices to poor communities by 2022. Companies, including Nestle SA, Unilever NV and The Hershey Company, have pledged to root out deforestation in their supply chains and help regrow forests where possible.
Rainforested areas lost 11.9 million hectares (46,000 square miles) of tree cover overall in 2019, according to Global Forest Watch, which releases estimates every year based on University of Maryland data. Tree-cover loss is different than deforestation, because it includes planted areas and both natural and human causes of forest destruction.
Last year’s 2.8% rise over 2018 was largely driven by Brazil, which alone made up a third of the total, as it razed forests to make room for agriculture. Indonesia maintained its decline of recent years, brought about by better enforcement of environmental policies. Colombia also saw a significant drop, which Global Forest Watch analysts said may be attributable to recovery from years of civil war.
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